Alta. elevator receives historical designation

The elevator is also home to municipal archives, a farmers market, community garden and large machinery and farm tool display

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — The local agriculture society saved Spruce Grove’s elevator from the wrecking ball in 1995. Earlier this month, the provincial government gave it an extra layer of protection with a Provincial Historic Resource designation.

The former Alberta Wheat Pool grain elevator, built in 1958, was decommissioned in 1995 and was ready to be torn down until members of the Spruce Grove and District Agricultural Heritage Society bought it for $1.

The provincial government has now ensured its survival with the historic resource designation.

“It means nobody can actually come in and demolish the place without some major hoops to jump through,” said Rick Lee, president of the agricultural society.

“Having this as an historic site, that means it’s going to be here for a long, long time. As long as it is properly maintained and upkeep is ongoing then we should keep it for a long time.”

At one time, there were more than 1,700 wooden grain elevators in the province. Now, there are just over 100 wooden elevators and few people get a chance to see inside a working grain elevator.

The old Alberta Wheat Pool elevator in Spruce Grove was saved from the wrecking ball in 1995 when it was bought by the local agricultural society. It recently received a Provincial Historic Resource designation and has been saved once again. The resource designation means any changes to the elevator must receive government approval. | Mary MacArthur photo

Leela Sharon Aheer, minister of culture, multiculturalism and status of women, said the elevators are an important part of rural communities.

“I know when I have had family that have come from India, one of the things we’ve always done is to travel around to see these grain elevators. They really are spectacular and really represent so much of what is important to this province. They are the backbone of the communities that were built here.”

Lee said the elevator is an important link to history in what is now a bedroom community to Edmonton.

“We’re an urban municipality now. The elevator is what built Spruce Grove with all the farmers in the area. It is an important reminder to people of where we came from and what we do,” said Lee of Spruce Grove.

The elevator’s grading and sampling area has been restored. | Mary MacArthur photo

Volunteer Sharon Acheson said at one time there were three elevators in Spruce Grove. One burned down, the second was moved off the site by the railway and the Alberta Wheat Pool elevator is now turned into a tourist attraction and the city’s only museum. The elevator is also home to Spruce Grove’s archives, a farmers market, community garden and large machinery and farming tool display.

Acheson said she was looking for some project and decided to apply for the heritage designation.

Sharon Acheson, a volunteer with the Spruce Grove and District Agricultural Society, holds the Provincial Historic Resource plaque. Acheson filled out the paperwork and submitted the application to the provincial government to get the 1958 elevator designated. | Mary MacArthur photo

“It was mostly gathering history,” said Acheson during the designation event.

Volunteer George Sewell and a local farmer remembers hauling grain to the elevator from his nearby farm.

“What I always tell people, when you got a cheque from the wheat pool you could go to town and buy groceries and farm machinery parts or anything like that.”

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